The Importance of Talking with your Children about Voting

1479444023_voting_icons-06This article is not to discuss political views but to discuss with your child(ren) the importance of political process.

Most Americans don’t spend a ton of time talking politics in their home, but as parents we should talk about the importance of the political process and our personal beliefs and values. The truth is, that children echo the political views of their parents. As parents we should talk about kindness, respect, empathy, and trust with our children regardless of our political views.

This campaign season, children have been surrounded by subtle (and not so subtle) political messages such as lawn signs, bumper stickers, social media, and television. Without parental guidance this can be overwhelming and confusing for children of all ages.

While we sometimes tend to think avoidance is the best solution, it is always best to communicate with your children. By talking with your child this will help your child gain understanding of the political process and talk about why campaigns sometimes turn angry. As an educator, I find that little children come up with great solutions to negativity – as parents we can turn this into a teachable moment. We can talk with our children about the importance of voting and living in a free democracy. Include a conversation about what they hear on TV and at school.

When teaching young children about the voting process it’s important to provide a balanced perspective. A 5-year-old isn’t likely to understand things like foreign policy, but you can talk about what democracy means and why we go to the polls in our community to vote. It’s important to communicate to our children that people do have opposing views when it comes to politics, but that we can talk about those views in a respectful manner. We can also agree to disagree without resorting to anger and/or unkind comments. Share with them the importance of voting and encourage your children to talk about their own views and teach them to stay positive. Let your children know that we don’t vote for candidates based on their appearance, race, or gender, and teasing anyone based on any of these qualities is not appropriate behavior. Resist the urge to make negative comments about candidates and focus on the positive. Talk about what you like about the various candidates and how their ideas might improve our country.

Parents can teach children the importance in voting by trying some activities at home. For example, select two dinner options for a family dinner. Spend time making signs, presenting speeches about the dinner options, and engaging in healthy debates about the pros and cons of each dinner. Use your computer or tablet to make ads promoting your dinner of choice. The night before the big family dinner, set up a voting booth and cast your votes! Children learn a lot through role playing and this is a great way to teach a lesson on voting. The best way to learn about the voting process is to be a part of it.

As you vote this year, consider allowing your child to accompany you so they can witness the political process and understand the importance of their role in a free democracy and being a participant in our great nation.